Express “worry” at the sluggish pace of the justice delivery system, the Supreme Court on Friday asked the Centre to work out a comprehensive policy for fast-tracking trials in criminal cases and “strengthening courts” for “good governance”. It also underlined that only some cases, like those against MPs, cannot be fast-tracked “at the cost of” other cases.
The court said fast-tracking only a certain category of cases may not bring the desired results since such “piecemeal” steps would lead to delay of the other cases. In June, Modi had asked the Home and Law ministries to draw up a blueprint for completion of trials of politicians, especially MPs, within a year.
“There is a demand by you (government) that criminal trials involving MPs should be fast-tracked. Institutionalised fast-track courts are no longer in place… within the existing system, it may not be possible to fast-track all kinds of cases,” said a bench led by Chief Justice R M Lodha on Friday.
“Fast-tracking one type of cases cannot be at the cost of other kinds of cases. For how long will we keep on taking out one category of cases and creating special courts? We are not fast-tracking the system with such approach,” said the bench, which included Justices Kurian Joseph and Rohinton Nariman.
Stating that the pace of the justice delivery system was “not at all satisfactory”, it said “all efforts should be made on an urgent basis” to put in place courts with better infrastructure. It asked the government to explain how it intends to speed up the system so that the Constitution’s resolve of “justice to all” is fulfilled.
“Fast-tracking is a must. You (government) have to come out with a comprehensive scheme. Take all the states into confidence and convene a meeting of all law secretaries and chief secretaries if required. We are worried about the pace of the system. This is the most important thing we have to do. You have to work really hard to improve the system,” the bench told Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi.
The court also sought to know whether the government was contemplating fast-tracking criminal trials and, if so, whether a policy is on the anvil and what steps have been taken so far. The AG assured that the government would look into the issue and would come back to the court with a blueprint of the policy in four weeks.
“Fast-tracking of cases without creation of additional courts and infrastructure creates more burden of the category of cases left out of the fast-track system. For good governance, it is necessary that courts are strengthened and criminal justice is fast-tracked. It is the right time for the central government to take positive steps, in consultation with the state governments, in fast-tracking the criminal justice system so that the system is expedited,” said the court.
“I have my own limitation as the Chief Justice of India as I cannot constitute more courts. I have written to the Chief Justices of the High Courts too for fast-tracking cases involving senior citizens and women but they also have their own limitations… you don’t need a huge investment for providing better infrastructure,” said the court.
The bench reminded the government that the courts may not generate revenue but they help ensure law and order and better governance.
The court was hearing a PIL on repatriation of Pakistani prisoners who have either served their terms in India or are waiting conclusion of their trials. In 2008, the court had asked for completion of the trials of such prisoners within a year.